Hired as at shoe designer, given graphic design tasks

Please help! I need advice.

I’ve been hired as a shoe design and development assistant, but over the past 2 months of my time here, I’ve been appointed some major graphic design tasks including ad campaigns and sending things to print. My background is mainly product design.

Since it’s a small company, I do the best of my ability to do these graphic design tasks, but I feel my work is sub par in their outcome.

It’s become a budding problem and is causing tension for me. How do I let my boss know my expertise lies within industrial/product design, not graphic design, without sounding like I don’t want to do the tasks appointed to me?

Recently I approved something go to print that ended up being terrible quality. It was beyond my knowledge, but I’m sure the blame will be placed on me…

I posted this in the employment section as well, but as an assistant footwear design position, I thought I might get more specific advice here.

If I am reading this right, it sounds like you don’t have a problem doing the work, but are just uncomfortable being that it lies outside of your area of expertise. If this is the case, I would approach it as such, avoid sounding defensive, but actively seek out some opportunities to gain the training, knowledge, experience you feel you are lacking. Do this in an organized manner, potentially a schedule or identified classes, tutorials, books, mentors, etc that you believe would benefit you in gaining the necessary experience to be more confident in achieving goals that are more on par with where you would like to be. This should atleast begin a dialogue on the subject, maybe they tell you they are really happy with what you have been producing and some growing pains are expected, but they think you’ll be up to speed in no time, or maybe they say “we didn’t realize that, okay, let’s get you to training or buy this boook …” I think this shows you are being proactive and simply want to make sure you gain the necessary knowledge to do the best work you can for them.

I understand the frustration perfectly. I have been in the exact same position a couple of times. I have worked for a number of action sports/ footwear companies and most are so small a designer is just expected to wear a bunch of hats. I currently have had to do a catalog and a full product line and graphics for the products.

I would try your best for really important jobs or ones you just don’t feel comfortable with to get someone above you to sign off on it. As an assistant you should not have the sole power to send an item to final print.

If you want to keep working in footwear/athletic equipment you should invest time in learn graphics it will make you far more employable. It is hard for an IDer to transition in some ways. But from what I have seen it is easier for an IDer to go to graphics then a Graphic Designer to go to ID. In a small company especial action sports/outdoor companies they expect a lot out of the term designer. Do your best and try to make justifiable decisions and try to buffer yourself from having to absorb all blame.

Sounds like my first job at Pentland Group. I was hired as a junior footwear designer, but I can still remember the projects I did in my first year, which included designing job adverts to go in the trade press, suncream packaging and swimming goggles colourways (for Speedo).

Sure I was no way as good at this as a pro would have been. But your employers aren’t daft, they know your abilities, they don’t need to be told you aren’t a pro - they hired you, they read your resume. Perhpas they know you will benefit (and you will). Enjoy the experience and give it 100%, I know I’m so lucky to have got to do similar - I’ve known some juniors be trusted with little more than sticking pictures down on mood boards. Now that’s soul destroying.

Thanks for all of the input everyone.
Shoenista- I really appreciate what you are saying. You are right. I should enjoy the ride. The only thing is I’m constantly concerned in this weathering economy that things could easily come crashing down- as far as opportunities go. It’s a neurosis that won’t go away- in the end my biggest fear is of being let go.
Hence -Singletrack, I fear even the thought of letting my boss know I don’t have full knowledge in a field she might expect me to. Even though I’m just beginning, I feel constant pressure to immediately know everything plus more.

The most important thing you should have learned in college or uni or wherever you went is how to solve problems. Understand how to ask questions, approach projects (even ones you’ve done before) with a basket full of questions. If your print job came out bad, but looked great on screen, hopefully this was a test print or proof right? I would call the printer and ask some questions. Spend 20 minutes on the phone, have your questions ready beforehand and listen to them. Learn from it so you can correct the files and make your work look good.

When something goes wrong, please try to learn from it so you can avoid the mistakes in the future and teach somone else how to do the job right if the need arises.

Yeah- I have definitely learned from this. Part of the problem is that the printer did not speak English very well at all, when I called, we could barely understand one another. Unfortunately this was not just a proof, for some reason they refuse to print a physical proof.

This sounds very very strange to me. I’ve worked in printing, and any professional should know that some things come out completely different to what they look like on a screen. Granted, most of the time we sent pdf’s as proofs, but then again, most printing is a logo in a corner or a slight variation to something that has been done before.

Also, a good company would have checked with you before going ahead if they had noticed that things didn’t go as planned. I say go with someone else in the future.